Reflections on the Statement of the Anglican Church of Nigeria
Reflections on the Statement of the Anglican Church of Nigeria
THE CHURCH OF NIGERIA:
The Church of Nigeria was one of the Provinces that protested against the consecration of Gene Robinson (an active homosexual clergyman in New Hampshire), by The Episcopal Church USA, and the promulgation of a liturgy for blessing of same sex union; boycotted the Lambeth Conference 2008, and organized the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON 2008}, in Jerusalem. A remarkable legacy of that conference is the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration. Since then, the theological position of the Church of Nigeria on the human sexuality palaver raging in the Anglican Communion is by no means ambiguous. In pursuance of its position, it has had to amend its constitution to emphasize the basis of our relationship with any other Province or church namely:
The Church of Nigeria shall be in full communion with all Anglican Churches, Dioceses and Provinces that hold and maintain the Historic Faith, Doctrine, Sacrament and Discipline of the one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church as the Lord has commanded in His holy word and as the same are received as taught in the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal of 1662 and in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.
In other words, the amendment places emphasis on the “Historic Faith, Doctrine, Sacrament.. .. The word of God rather than, and instead of, historical institutions. It was intended to save the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) from derailment in the context of challenges engendered by theological ambivalence such as the present human sexuality controversy illustrates.
In further pursuance of that same amendment, the Church of Nigeria resolved to break communion with The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada (not on account of redefinition), but on the practice, promotion and advocacy of homosexuality and its allied practices.
As part of the stance of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON}, it resolved not to attend any future conference or meeting where the above named two Provinces will sit and participate in discussion. However, the January 2016 Primates meeting in Canterbury was considered an exception. Thus, the GAFCON and Global South resolved to attend.
In spite of the hollow restrictions placed on The Episcopal Church, the Presiding Bishop of TEC and the Chairman, Anglican Consultative Council, have avowed that the Primates had no authority to take that decision. During the Canterbury meeting itself, the way and manner in which those who hold the orthodox view of human sexuality and marriage were spoken of by the authorities, and denounced as 11homophobic”, left no one in doubt that we were in the wrong place. In fact, the authorities believe that patience was being exercised to enable the communion to bring up the scripture-believers gradually to embrace the homosexual doctrine. Thus, the Anglican Communion’s journey is very uncertain for the orthodox. They are walking into a well-rehearsed scheme to gradually apply persuasion, subtle blackmail, coercion on any group still standing with the Scriptural Provision as we know it, to join the straight jacket of the revisionists and be politically correct. Somehow, they are succeeding!
At this point we find great wisdom in the attitude of the British Government in relation to the European Union. It has not joined the Euro Zone; it did not join the Schengen conglomerate. Now the British Prime Minister is asking for a 11Special Status” in the European Union for the United Kingdom.
The Anglican Communion should begin to think in that direction for those Provinces that may never, for obvious reasons, embrace the sexual culture being promoted by some Provinces of the Church over and against the Bible as we received it. We need a “Special Status”. In summary, as long as we are now candidates for whom every opportunity in the Anglican Communion should be explored to gradually teach us to embrace the new sex culture, it will be unwise to deliberately walk into a well-prepared camp of recruitment, blackmail, indoctrination and toxic relationship. Therefore, we regret our inability to attend the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Lusaka, Zambia. We continue to pray for God’s Church to return to the Holy Bible, for its faith and practice.
The Most Rev’d Nicholas D. Okoh
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria
Some commentary on the Position Statement from the Church of Nigeria
By Bishop Bill Atwood
The strength of the Church of Nigeria (CON) is not just from its massive size, though massive it is at more than twenty million active members! This statement demonstrates their ability to think clearly and communicate articulately. It also demonstrates the lie of Jack Spong’s assertion at the 1998 Lambeth Bishop’s Conference that the African Bishops were operating out of ignorance. Besides the fact that the Nigerian arguments are rock solid, anyone who correctly uses “palaver” gets a tip of the hat! Further, an overwhelming percentage of Nigerian (and other African Provinces’) Bishops have earned advanced degrees. Indeed, far more than in the US, Canada, or England.
Notice that in response to the inability of the Communion to deal with the theological crisis adequately, the CON had the vision to modify their constitution to limit their relations to those Provinces and Dioceses that maintain historic, Biblical faith.
Here, they rightly put the focus on The Word of God instead of on institutional decisions and/or loyalties.
When one considers how little has changed over the years, it was exceedingly gracious of Nigeria and the other GAFCON and Global South Provinces to make an exception and attend the gathering in Canterbury in January. It was not only gracious, but also wise to go to that meeting, given that 21 of the 36 Primates who attended were new to the process. In addition, a new Archbishop of Canterbury has been seated. By attending this “one last chance,” they demonstrated to the new Primates (and anyone else willing to listen) that they were willing to give a try to let institutional efforts “work.”
Hopes for a restoration of Biblical order in the Communion were dashed within hours of the close of the meeting as the Presiding Bishop of TEC and others denounced even the light discipline that had been mandated by an overwhelming vote of the Primates. Notice, too, the sophistication of the argument that recognizes the vapidity of the claim that disagreement with the liberal trajectory can be motivated only by fear. Take note, too, that the Nigerians are aware that there has been consistent pressure on those who maintain the historic faith to change and embrace the “new” agenda.
Notice the brilliance of this move. By referencing the situation in the European Union, not only do they show their understanding of the subtleties of European politics, they also make a strong argument for articulating a place for like-minded Provinces to stand and life out our faith.
Here, we see Nigeria making a cogent argument for links that are based on the realities of the broken state of things. It also seems that they are weary of “recruitment, blackmail, indoctrination, and toxic relationship,” and they are looking for ways to relate that don’t permanently put them in a position of having to battle to defend their faith. Those of us who share that faith can certainly relate to the weariness that comes from battling for decades.
It is also quite clear that there is nothing to be gained from continuing to go to meetings where the revelation of God in Scripture is not taken seriously and, in fact, where those who maintain the faith of the church for twenty centuries are at best tolerated and more often are derided.
One very well known “moderate” Primate said to me, “If TEC shows in Lusaka and attempts to fully participate and vote, it will mean war in the Anglican Communion. One might well ask how that would be different from what we have had over the last twenty-five years. I think the difference it that the Biblically faithful Provinces are fed up. Don’t expect the status quo. That is not what is now emerging.